Ian Paisley slams Dublin Airport as 'southern stereotype' as tourism row deepens
The DUP's Ian Paisley has responded after Dublin airport accused him of making "totally false" comments about the battle between Dublin and Belfast's airports.
Mr Paisley's initial claims were made in a Westminster Committee earlier this week, when he told tourism delegates that "70 percent of Dublin Airport's marketing budget on the island is spent in Northern Ireland to attract people to go south".
The North Antrim MP later added that the "all-Ireland nature of tourism marketing has stolen a march in NI" and accused Dublin Airport of being a key factor in reducing visitor numbers north of the border.
However, his views were described as "ludicrous" by a Dublin Airport spokesman, who said: "Contrary to claims made by Ian Paisley Jr, Dublin Airport does not advertise at airports in Northern Ireland to attract people when they arrive in Belfast to 'go south'."
The spokesman described the MP's claim about the airport's marketing budget as "totally false and without basis in reality", but insisted the hub would continue to "serve the entire island" and invest in advertising in the North.
Mr Paisley, whose party's North Antrim Westminster Association received a £4,000 donation from Belfast International Airport in 2018, yesterday slammed Dublin Airport's response, accusing their spokesman of "deliberately misrepresenting" his comments.
"The problem for Dublin airport is that facts are stubborn things. Northern Ireland airports' lose one million passengers per year to Dublin; that equates to 900 job equivalents worth approximately £22-30 million denied to our economy."
Mr Paisley said he desired "fair play" in relation to tourism, demanding "a tax policy that attracts airline businesses and customers to NI airports" and a "marketing strategy that recognises the fact that people want to visit the attractions in NI yet are compelled and marketed by public money to enter via the Republic and see NI as a day trip destination".
He continued: "I am surprised by the cowardice of some self proclaimed PR and marketing experts who know about the attractiveness of the province yet won’t take on the fight to get more visitors here."
The DUP MP added he was "glad" to have "generated such a debate and encouraged people to think about these important issues".